Posted on October 19, 2020

Army Is Forced to Halt Live Shooting Exercise After Migrants Crossing the Channel in a Speedboat Land

Mark Duell, Daily Mail, October 14, 2020

The British Army was forced to stop a live shooting exercise on a military range today after a group of migrants landed a 9ft speedboat in the middle of target practice.

The group of about 16 migrants were seen by a spotter heading towards shore at Lydd Ranges near Dungeness on the remote Romney Marshes in Kent this morning having travelled 21 miles across the English Channel.

The boat then made landfall inside a designated danger zone after continuing to travel towards the site following a ‘check fire’ being called, which saw the reservist unit of British Army soldiers temporarily stop firing.

The group of migrants then got off and ran inland, but police and immigration officers found all of them after being called to the scene. The shooting exercise was delayed for two hours.

The vessel was seen at sea by one of the lookouts at the site who told the range conducting officer, and they immediately suspended firing. The scheduled firing had begun at 8.30am, and it is not thought anyone was hurt.

The Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boat (RHiB), which has a 300bhp engine that costs £20,000 alone, is one of the most advanced vessels to have ever transported migrants across the Channel, reported the Daily Telegraph.

An Albanian passport was allegedly found on board, heightening fears that smuggling gangs from the country are carrying out the illegal crossings following a reduction in lorry traffic due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The boat has fixed seating and is the type of vessel used for high speed coastal and river pleasure trips. Some 16 orange life jackets were found abandoned in the boat.

So far this year an estimated 7,173 migrants have made the crossing over the Channel, compared with 1,850 in all of 2019. At least 1,954 completed the crossing in small boats in September alone.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman confirmed to MailOnline that ‘the firing was halted for two hours and that a Territorial Army unit was on the range at the time’. A Home Office spokesman has been contacted for comment.

And a Kent Police spokesman said: ‘Kent Police assisted Border Force and other partner agencies after a report of suspected migrants seen near Dungeness at 8.55am on Wednesday.’

On Sunday the Home Office’s clandestine channel threat commander suggested that plans were underway for Britain to use nets as a method of disabling dinghies carrying migrants across the Channel.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Mr O’Mahoney said the tactic would be used as part of a ‘safe return’ strategy in which British vessels would then transfer migrants back to France.

However the tactic has so far been delayed due to France not currently accepting such migrants back into the country.

The former Royal Marine told the paper the strategy involved ‘safely disabling the engine and then taking the migrants on board our vessel’.

He said: ‘We definitely are very, very close to being able to operationalise a safe return tactic where we make an intervention safely on a migrant vessel, take migrants on board our vessel and then take them back to France.’

He added it was one of a number of methods ‘which we may deploy over the next few months. But given that we’re not using them yet I’m not at liberty to go into detail about them … We are working with maritime security departments across law enforcement and military, everywhere across government (to) come up with new tactics to tackle this problem.’

Mr O’Mahoney used the interview to unveil a four-stage plan to tackle the problem of illegal migration across the Channel.

The four stages of Mr O’Mahoney’s plan are: using social media to attempt to stop the flow of migrants from Africa and the Middle East into northern France, reducing the number of asylum seekers leaving the region for the UK, physically preventing entry to the UK and reforming Britain’s asylum system.